Nintendo 'NX' to run on Android? Not a chance, Mario-maker says

Nintendo's move to Android seemed like a longshot from the start. Nintendo has long controlled all facets of its products, and there's been no indication it'll change its stance now.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Nintendo's Wii U doesn't run Android, and its successor won't, either. Nintendo

Nintendo's plans for new gaming hardware don't involve Google's Android platform, despite claims to the contrary.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Tuesday, a Nintendo spokesman said that Android will not power Nintendo's next gaming device, currently codenamed "NX." The statement follows a report from Japan-based Nikkei on Monday, claiming that the company was planning to use Google's operating system in the hardware. That report cited people who claimed to have had knowledge of Nintendo's plans.

Nintendo's official statement on the matter ends what would have been a monumental shift for the company. Nintendo has been making game consoles for decades, dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System's launch (as Famicom) in Japan in 1983. In that time, the company has released several consoles and portables and they've all been powered by Nintendo-developed software.

A move to Android would have represented the first time Nintendo would have relied on Android to power its own hardware.

Nintendo has been exceedingly secretive about its upcoming hardware, NX. In March, "="" called="" nx"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="video" uuid="42e40173-73a4-417e-bf37-fccfc89bafbd" slug="nintendo-levels-up-with-mobile-apps-and-the-nx-system" link-text="Nintendo announced that it was working on " section="videos" title="Nintendo levels up with mobile apps and the 'NX' system" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"42e40173-73a4-417e-bf37-fccfc89bafbd","slug":"nintendo-levels-up-with-mobile-apps-and-the-nx-system","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"culture"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Culture","reviewType":null},"section":"videos"}"> that would feature "a brand new concept." Nintendo declined to provide further details on the device and has remained similarly tight-lipped since.

To many who follow the gaming market, the very idea that Nintendo would move to an Android-based device was hard to believe. Nintendo has long been in control over all aspects of its gaming experiences and to deliver an open-source platform designed by another company seemed rather unlikely.

Still, there has been a shift in the gaming space toward accepting Android as a gaming platform. For one, Android, as the world's most popular mobile operating system, has become a go-to place for casual gamers to play all sorts of games, including simple titles, like Angry Birds, and more sophisticated titles, like Clash of Clans.

That success has prompted several companies to develop Android-based game hardware outside of smartphones and tablets. The Ouya, for example, is powered by Android. Razer's Forge TV and the Nvidia Shield also come with gaming components that run on Android.

The growing number of Android-based devices competing in the traditional gaming market is driven in part by speed and breaking down barriers. Historically, gaming companies that wanted to release a console would need to build both the hardware and software and lure game developers to create titles for their systems. Those game developers would then need to learn how to develop games for that unique platform and deliver their titles.

With Android, everything changes. Although the hardware makers still need to worry about components and design, by bundling Android, the barriers to getting developers to sign on to a console are exceedingly low. Developers that have Android apps can simply port their games to the new hardware without worrying about learning how to develop games for a new device. That results in more games being made available in a shorter amount of time than in the traditional business model.

Changing its business model has been slow-going for Nintendo. As the company has watched its financial performance wane over the last several years while gamers move to smartphones, tablets, and even competing consoles like the PlayStation 4, Nintendo has stubbornly stuck to its belief that its Wii U console could hang tough. So far, that hasn't happened, prompting the company to announce in March that it would start making games for mobile platforms, including Android. The move is a significant shift for Nintendo and bolstered some arguments that suggested NX could plausibly be built on Android.

Now that we know that's not the case, however, questions abound over what NX will offer. Nintendo said to investors last month that it would not reveal details on NX at the E3 gaming expo next month and has been unwilling to provide any details on its "next-generation" system. For now, the only thing that's clear is that it won't run on Android.

Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.